The Real Cost of Taking on a Reverse Mortgage

Reverse mortgages are an increasingly popular financial tool for seniors looking to tap into their home equity to supplement their retirement income. However, it’s crucial to understand the real costs of taking on a reverse mortgage before making a decision. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the upfront fees, interest rate, monthly service fees, insurance and taxes, repayment rules, and other potential costs associated with reverse mortgages, as well as discussing the tax implications and estate issues.


1. Upfront Fees

Reverse mortgages come with a variety of upfront fees, which can make a significant impact on the overall cost of the loan. Some of these fees include:

  • Origination fee: This fee covers the lender’s costs of processing your loan application. Origination fees vary by lender and can range from 0.5% to 2% of the initial principal limit.
  • Closing costs: Similar to a traditional mortgage, you’ll need to pay various fees at closing, such as appraisal fees, title search and insurance fees, and recording fees. Closing costs can range from 2% to 5% of the home’s value.
  • Mortgage insurance premium (MIP): This upfront fee is required for all Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) and is paid to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to insure your loan. The MIP is 2% of your home’s appraised value or the FHA’s lending limit, whichever is lower.

2. Interest Rate

Interest rates on reverse mortgages can be either fixed or adjustable. With a fixed rate, the interest rate remains constant for the life of the loan.

With an adjustable-rate reverse mortgage, the interest rate can change periodically based on a financial index, such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), plus a margin set by the lender. The frequency of rate adjustments depends on the specific terms of the loan. Keep in mind that higher interest rates will increase the overall cost of the loan.

3. Monthly Service Fee

Some lenders may charge a monthly service fee for managing your reverse mortgage account. These fees typically range from $25 to $35 per month and are added to the loan balance, increasing the total amount you owe over time.

4. Insurance & Taxes

As a reverse mortgage borrower, you are still responsible for paying property taxes, homeowners insurance, and any other required insurance or taxes. Failure to maintain these payments could result in loan default and eventual foreclosure.

5. Repayment Rules

Reverse mortgages must be repaid when the borrower passes away, sells the home, or permanently moves out. This means that the loan balance, including the principal, accrued interest, and any fees, must be paid back in full. If the homeowner’s heirs wish to keep the home, they can either pay off the loan balance or refinance the property with a new mortgage.

6. Fees for Paying Back the Loan

In some cases, there may be fees associated with paying back the reverse mortgage, such as prepayment penalties if you decide to pay off the loan early. Make sure to review your loan agreement carefully to understand any potential fees before signing.

7. Tax Implications

The proceeds from a reverse mortgage are generally considered loan advances and not taxable income. However, it’s essential to consult a tax professional to understand how a reverse mortgage might affect your specific tax situation.

8. Estate Issues

Reverse mortgages can have an impact on your estate and your heirs. When the loan becomes due, your heirs will have a limited amount of time (usually six months) to either pay off the loan balance or sell the home to satisfy the debt. If the home sells for more than the loan balance, your heirs will receive the remaining proceeds. However, if the home’s value is less than the loan balance, the FHA insurance will cover the difference, and your heirs won’t be responsible for the shortfall.


Taking on a reverse mortgage can provide financial relief for seniors in need of additional income during retirement. However, it’s crucial to understand the real costs involved, including upfront fees, interest rates, monthly service fees, insurance and taxes, and potential estate issues. Always consult with a reputable reverse mortgage counselor and carefully review the terms of your loan to ensure you’re making the best decision for your financial future.